A Patient Veteran, A Beloved Wife, A Sweet Irish Setter And Now My Life by Rick London c2016

By now most know Lee’s and my love for animals.  For much of my life, that meant domestic animals such as dogs and cats, and the occasional iguana or hamster, but for the most part dogs and cats and horses.

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I had surmised by the time I was ten or so that I may be the biggest animal-lover in the world, thanks to my late friend Dickey Randolph who, though six years older than me, took the time to teach me about dog care. I got my first Irish Setter from him.   And though I will never forget Dickey’s kindness and goodwill (we stayed friends until his untimely death several years back), I know now it was dogs and cats I loved.

I mention that as, I’d never had anyone explain anything that important to me in detail, that stuck with me throughout my lifetime, and became one of the most important parts of who I am; and most likely began my quest as being a vegan as I am now too.

Part of that “memorable miracle” with Dickey was that I was a disabled, but not diagnosed child with Autism (and now of course an adult with autism).  I was quite hyper, didn’t make good eye-contact, and my attention-span was dismal.

He didn’t care, nor did  it bother him in the least when he returned from Viet Nam, a multi-decorated hero, and very good man.  His guidance led me to the curiosity of nature and animals, and Lee took me to further explorations into the forest to see it in all its glory and how animals behave.  I never get bored with that and it has a very healing nature, very similar to the dog I got from Dickey, “Rusty”.

animal collection lion sleeps mug

I didn’t hate cows, pigs, sheep and chickens, but I dined on them.  Along with overcooked veggies that was my staple until college, at which time McDonald’s took over as “the family kitchen”.  I look back and wonder how I ever lived through that, and in reality, almost didn’t.  I was still 35 years away and two major heart attacks from “seeing the cruelty” in what I was doing.

amusing shoes vegan autism

Having owned one of the first health food stores in Ms. with a $10K loan from the now defunct (like my health food store) Bank Of Hattiesburg, with a preacher from Glendale, Ms. who was later bought out by an ex-math professor at USM, I had an early curiosity of health foods, yoga, running etc.  It never occurred to me that something as simple as animal protein (including dairy and eggs) was not only holding me back, but eventually killing me, and how I didn’t die on at least 4 occasions has stumped all my surgical specialists.  I am a blessed and grateful man.

I went full-fledged into that business.  Most of my “education” came from salespersons with high-school degrees and books written by outdated writers.  Food science was moving forward as fast as one could turn a page.  The animal sciences were not far behind.  I was dedicated to trying to eat right, take the right herbs and vitamins, run marathons, and you name it.

I have since learned that cooked vitamins might as well go in the toilet.  To my knowledge there is only one firm that makes 100% organic vegan raw vitamins and that is “Garden Of Life” which we buy in powder form from Amazon or Ebay.  It is amazing and one can tell the difference immediately from the ones we see advertised on tv often which have had all/or most of the nutrients and more importantly live enzymes cooked out of them, so they are useless.

I learned that herbal tinctures, in most cases are far better than the tablets or capsules as far as potency. I also learned that organic and wildcrafted are every bit as important.  In addition I learned that “organic” in China would not pass for edible in the U.S. (for herbs and vitamins).  There’s still much more to be learned.  Not all of it works. Some of it is nothing less than miraculous.   More learning.  It’s neverending.

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Enter Walmart, a new “box store” to the town and exit my store, an old overpriced relic.   I sadly closed my doors in 1981

So I spent some time educating myself regarding food sciences and animal science.

I was married in June 2010 to my beloved wife Lee Hiller-London (Lee Hiller of Hike Our Planet)who became a vegan one year later. I had already read the health benefits and how it helped the planet but that still wasn’t, for whatever reason enough for me. However I did go mainly vegetarian for a year before my conversion to veganism.

animal collection beaver pillow

It was impossible to watch Lee’s positive changes and not want that for myself.  I didn’t know if it could happen but I was surely willing to try.  She’d lost about 90 or so pounds and about 20 years of age.  I was astounded and still am.  But that was not her goal. It just happened.

She was very patient with me as my evolution kept going with at least some dairy or cheese and finally I said, “I’ve had it”. I thought she’d be surprised but she was not in the least.  She said, we’d both cook alternate days and eat as much raw as we could, and that is just what we did.  I had no idea I would not only actually like it, but crave it, and the thought of my old “food” never even crosses my mind.  I truly don’t think my body could absorb it.  Lee kept looking and feeling better and her mood became very kind. It was not an act.  I’ve seen lots of acts.  This was a natural evolution.  I wanted that too. (Still working on it  LOL).

The life changes are dramatic.  Forget the goodness to the planet, and though I am tickled to death that it happens, there is nothing that would take me back to my old eating lifestyle. I say that because there is no such thing, really, as a vegan diet. Veganism is more of a learning/lifestyle philosophy.

A Robin Williams Tribute Cartoons from 2003 by LTCartoons.com

A Robin Williams Tribute Cartoons from 2003 by LTCartoons.com

Well, Lee retained the good looks, common sense and brains, and I got to feel human maybe for the first time.

Because nobody gets it perfect (I was told that would happen by Ed Begley, Jr.) on Twitter….. (It’s a long story)….I’ve decided not to become a militant vegan, and that fits me well. While I would love the planet to all turn vegan, I also know as Ed told me, “It ain’t gonna happen”.  I would love to live the rest of my life on the planet not killing any animals, but again, it’s not going to happen.  Even in the making of my computer animals are killed.  Lee and I kill insects for instance on our hikes, our ride to the grocery, etc. but not on purpose of course.

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So I wish the Gandhi-wannabes good luck, and let me know how that turns out.  When curious persons are ready, they usually ask us questions. Lee has come up with the idea to have them start with a Meatless Monday which is now a worldwide movement.

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As time goes by and they are still interested, I often direct people to YouTube to watch Sir Paul McCartney’s “Glass Walls”.  Any time I’ve growled or gotten snarly, they ran they other way and ate more meat, with guilt, more meat, nevertheless.  They didn’t want to be much like me and who was I to blame them.  So I changed, and hopefully so did they.

armadillo tee

Meantime I’ve put together a collection of my favorite animal cartoon gifts and tees and I have a lot more in the store collection.  A percentage of each sale benefits various animal and/or vegan causes.

Also for yet even more entertainment, there’s plenty on my cartoon website.

zazzle orgnanic tern

Happy laughing…and eating….and hopefully shopping!

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, designer and cartoonist.  He is best known for launching Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts from an abandoned tin warehouse in rural Ms.  He is married to his best friend and hiking buddy, his beloved bride Lee Hiller-London who owns the nature photography blog Hike Our Planet. Though of course cetaceans are animals (Dolphins, Orcas etc.) Rick keeps a separate section for his ocean mammal friends (gifts).

The Story Behind Salad Bar Exam Cartoon & Gifts by Londons Times Cartoons

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When I launched LTCartoons.com in 1997, everything we did was in black and white. We felt newspapers would “make or break us”, and for many years that was true in cartooning. We heard every excuse from “Your cartoons simply are not family-oriented enough” to “Nobody really would understand them…they’re kind of ‘out there’.” Yada yada. I worked with an artist named Richard Larson (no relation to Gary).  Newspapers just wouldn’t touch us. We didn’t take it personally. On any given day there were approximately 100,000 cartoons competing with us (and still are).

On the other hand we were getting amazingly positive feedback from families (even kids of all ages), and on the Internet within a year they were relatively well-known. We finally decided to do color and a t-shirt manufacturer in San Diego paid us $10,000 for the rights to 12 images (by then we were doing color); convinced newspapers were not going to be our bread and butter.

Peanuts creator Charles “Sparky” Schulz advised me that if I was ever to make any money in cartooning, it would not be from newspapers; they merely paid peanuts (no pun intended). He said the real money was in licensed goods, such as Tshirts, mugs, lunch boxes etc.  So that became my focus.  When someone finally created digital design a few years after I launched the cartoon, I spent 15 hours a day learning how to design products digitally.  I have designed about 160.000 products with my mouse and keyboard.  Though it’s not rocket science, it does take a few minor skills to learn. And I’m grateful for those who helped me along with learning that process.

Still curious why so much rejection from newspapers, and downright hostile rejection letters from literary agents.  Though most of those rejection letters were “form letters”, a few added personal comments.  One of my favorite was, “That’s all I need is another failed cartoonist”.  (That came from one of New York’s biggest literary agents who has been defunct for about 8 years). 🙂

I started researching a bit, and talked to some mentors (other cartoonists who had made it) only to discover newspapers no longer were the holy grail.  The Internet, somehow was going to be the place to showcase ones work.  One simply had to be creative and figure out a way to do so (attractively) and market them properly.

I returned to school at age 47 to learn Internet Technology and Business. This helped a great deal; though most of what I learned is now outdated.  However many of the business principles remain the same and I believe always will.

I started selling signed limited edition prints on Ebay and at the time they did fairly well.  I noticed some of my most popular ones had to do with either a particular animal (such as dogs, cats, mice, chipmunks, snakes, etc). Everybody had a favorite.

Also professions were popular, and, believe it or not, nobody liked lawyer jokes (as much as lawyers).  Well most of them anyway.  They loved to laugh at themselves and many bought their fair share of legal-related cartoons.

So I decided to “outdo” myself with one called “Salad Bar Exam” which is now 14 years old. It remains our trademark cartoon and people seem to like it no matter what their profession (or lack therof).  Also many vegans and vegetarians like it too, as well as dieters who love restaurants with salad bars.  And of course just regular people like you and me who like to laugh.

Many collect my licensed items of “Salad Bar Exam” since they tend to go up in value.  They enjoy items such as Tshirts, mugs, caps, eco-friendly bags, aprons, etc.

To view entire Salad Bar Exam line of Collectibles…
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Salad Bar Exam: The Story Behind The Cartoon by Rick London – Londons Times Cartoons

 

     If I had to pick salad bar examany one cartoon that is our “trademark image” it would have to be “Salad Bar Exam”.  Even though the cartoon is about 12 years old, it remains our most popular. We even put it for sale on all types of odd products, and some not so odd like tees and mugs and such. 

      The story behind the cartoon, truly is nothing that dramatic about “the story behind the cartoon”; at least the story does not seem that dramatic to me.

      I actually wrote the concept around 1974.  I was in college (my first time around) and had switched to about 3 different majors; one of them being political science, which seemed to be a great pre-law major at the state university I attended. 

     As a vegan now, I look back at some of the “things” I ingested and wonder how I ever survived that time.  Some of my staples included peanut butter, sardines, ramen noodles, Gatorade, more ramen noodles and white bread.  No wonder I was sick all the time with the flue one week, strep throat the next week, etc. 

     It was about that time salad bars became popular at restaurants and Shoney’s, an establishment near USM had a huge salad bar.   My friends and I would go in and just order the salad which was super healthy, but then load it with blue cheese dressing, making it as fatal as any ramen noodle could be even if it didn’t try (to be fatal).

       By the same token I was losing interested in the law, and getting pulled over and warned by it (the law) more than I was learning the logistics of the Constitution.  Besides, my shoulder length hair got in the way of my eyes when I was trying to study, and to me, that was “a good thing”.

       My friends started losing interest in school, and the law generally about the same time I did.  Maybe 80% of them ended up in liberal arts like me.  I was liberal and an artist so why not?

        I can remember many a night debating staying in college and maybe pursuing the law, or maybe becoming a chef, a salad chef at that.  The two sort of melded together and this is the image that evolved.  It didn’t mean a lot at the time. I rough-sketched it with the caption “Salad Bar Exam” and it sat in a shoebox  with several other strange concepts and rough sketches for nearly 35 years.  At the time, I felt one day I would dispose of the entire box of silliness.  I felt that many times since too.  Funny how some of the most mundane things can become a major part of ones life. 

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, cartoonist and designer.  He is probably best known for his Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts “Londons Times Cartoons” or “LTCartoons.com”.  London is an avid hiker, a vegan and lives with his wife Lee Hiller-London in the Ouachata Mountains of Arkansas where they hike often and commune with nature, only to go home and eat soy n’ stuff. London adds, “Hey, its better than ramen noodles, eh?”   London offers a variety of products bearing his award-winning cartoon “Salad Bar Exam” on funny tshirts, aprons, mouse pads, and much more. 

Frankenfood Lab-Raised Meat Will Increase Global Warming And Factory Farming

     I don’t have a problem with the new laboratory-raised meat that grows in a petri dish. I have a huge problem with it.  I have an issue with it. I have issues with the people producing and hyping it.

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     If they were honest, I wouldn’t have such a problem with it. They are not being honest?  How could that be? Think about it.

       They call themselves “Vegan Outreach” on Twitter.  That’s bad enough. It’s about as vegan as veal.  It derives from a stem cell from the animal’s muscle whose taste it is trying to mimic.  A spokesman for that industry said “We add a tendon to it”, but he didn’t elaborate what that meant.

      But my big beef (no pun intended with this industry) , they are hyping it as “a way to feed  the world, or safe the planet, because of its very nature, it would mean less farm animals, or even no farm animals, hence less methane gasses, less cruelty etc.

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      Why is it that none of the so-called brilliant talking heads on TV news have not asked, “So when farming ends, will all the farmers just go home and live with their moms?”   Or will they hang in their patiently while people find thousands of new ways to invent new clothing, new products, new fuel, new everything (much less regulated than meat)?   Doesn’t this mean animal factory farming is going to increase about 1000-fold if this “meat product” takes off?  And with more factory farming (which is inevitable, this means more methane gas which means “If you think global warming is bad now, wait till then”.    Just wait till people find all the new neat uses for livestock.  And you know and I know, savvy entrepreneurs worldwide are just waiting for the right opportunity, and Frankenmeat story, gives them not just a foot into the door, but an but something “more special than fracking” as far as “caring for the planet”. 

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      I am sure the people inventing it know this, but they certainly are mum.  Why?  Duh.  Could it be that they are only in it for the money?  Isn’t that special.

      I happen to be a vegan, but a weird non-meat meat product is not the source of my anger.  The source of my anger is all the new industries that will form once animal farming is outlawed, because there will be so many new uses for farm animals.  And most of these products go from slightly regulated to not regulated at all.  If you think factory farming is bad now, wait until cows, sheep, pigs, chickens etc. are used for rocket fuel, caps, hub caps, back-to-school notebooks, and a zillion other items.  Items that are made out of cheaper plastic products will compete with a more upscale “animal-based” product; hence a huge need for farm animals, hence much more factory farming; all so a few people can make a fortune on Frankenmeat.

      Shame on the meatless meat industry, and shame on us for being so short-sighted. 

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Rick London is an author, designer, songwriter and cartoonist. He is best known for his Google 7 Bing #1 ranked offbeat cartoons & funny gifts “Londons Times Cartoons” which he launched in 1997.  He is married to hiker/nature photographer and gift designer Lee Hiller-London who has the popular wildlife photography blog Hike Our Planet and shops such as Lee Hiller Designs

Retail Secrets From An Old Timer Internet ProSeller by Rick London

     Well buying season is just around the corner and…….wait a minute. Stop right there. What buying season?  Who am I trying to kid?  It’s March 8th and there’s two upcoming holidays, Mother’s Day and Easter and they can hardly be considered buying holidays unless you are a bunny, chocolate, a chick or a duck.  Okay, okay, mom gets flowers or a card, but really, that’s about it. 

Convenience Store Cartoon

By Londons Times Cartoons c2011 http://www.LondonsTimes.us

      I heard it said that Valentine’s Day has gone out ahead of Christmas as the heaviest buying season but you could have fooled Lee..or me.   Yes we made a fairly good amount of sales, and for that we are grateful, but not like it used to be.  The 2012 Christmas buying season had been very good but…..What happened?

      To my knowledge, never in the history of the USA has there been a Tea Party vs a very popular 2nd term African American President who will be backing a woman in 2016 who is more popular than every one of the Tea Partiers put together.   Add that to a sequester, a fruitless argument about debt ceilings, filibuster speech-giving regarding drones programmed to knock a Starbuck’s double soy latte’ out of your hand just because your 4th cousin once knew a 3rd cousin of Jane Fonda and might have known Gloria Steinem’s stepfather’s 8th cousin.  And we have the 1% “makers:” with their money safely guarded in The Grand Cayman or Switzerland or Newark (the IRS would never think to look there); and they are scheduled to find it when it finally does trickle down to the rest of us, or when hell freezes over, whichever comes first. 

      But seriously, no matter what, people do still shop and gift-giving is one of the great traditions in these United States as unique collectibles as a hobby. Lee and I sell both of those and in very large quantities. We even offer volume deep discounts and free personalization/customization within several of our lines of merchandise. 

      So why am I tell you this?  For a pat on the back?  To feel sorry for me?  To Occupy Hot Springs until I’m worth several million (then you can leave thank you very much).

      Nooooooooooooooooooo. 

      I mention it because having talked to colleagues, especially other cartoonists and illustrators, some of whom have worked for me, have reminded me that all of this is universal.

Zorba

By Londons Times Cartoons c2011 http://www.LondonsTimes.us

      Whereas in 2010 our average sale was $60-$80, today it is $9.99-19.99.   This tells me something important.  People continue to want to give, and give to a lot of friends and loved ones.  But they have budgeted down below the $25 mark for each person. 

      I really didn’t need a little informal focus group on the Internet to figure that out.  If I’m doing it, and I am, and Lee’s doing it, then most likely all our friends and loved ones are doing it. 

      Do you know who is having the hardest time with this new economy?  The “Neuvo Poor”.  You read it right.  The mighty who have fallen and never took some hard hits along the way up. I do not write that with any kind of comfort or glee. I don’t like to see anyone hurting whether they be rich, poor or in between.

     Those of us who have taken our hard knocks, and taken them for many years, almost have an internal thermostat of how to make it through the month, even if money is short a particular month.

     My sweet late maternal grandmother Ruth London used to try to drill it in to me many times, and I would just laugh and sluff it off.  After  all, I was moving upward and nothing disastrous could ever happen to me.  Wrong!   It all came tumbling down….more than once.  What seemed like the end of the world at the time, turned out to be the “street education” I needed to survive and even thrive.

     And though it is not the same every month, it goes a little like this.

     At the first of the month,  pay all the bills. If you cannot pay them all, then pay the basics like rent or mortgage, groceries for the first week or two of the month. Forget about eating out, that’s a luxury that seems affordable at the time but is a huge waste of money buying food that is usually not exactly as it was billed. 

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     Pay the utilities, Internet, phone etc.  Once all that is paid there is a huge relief that transpires. One feels lighter.   Don’t pay with a credit card.  Cash or debit cards only.  Lee and I only use our debit cards and don’t even worry about checks and credit cards anymore. 

Shirley Temple Cartoon

By Londons Times Cartoons c2011

     You should have a little money left over.  Depending on your income it can be anywhere from $25 to around $400+ per month.  Stick as much of that in savings, knowing some of it might have to be withdrawn due to unexpected expenses which happen almost every month.  That’s okay. If you can save a few dollars every month you are doing better than most.

     I returned to college at age 48 and had some wonderful professors who taught pragmatic lessons that could easily be used the same day. One of my favorites said, “Credit cards are great…and I expect everyone to get as many as you can, that is if you own the company and you are the creditor”. Otherwise they are poison and will eat your soul”. 

     How did he know the story of my life?  And though I’d not used credit card for nearly 2 decades, I still remember the pain of the relentless calls when/if I was late, trying to juggle classes, running my own business, etc etc.  They showed no mercy.  Lee went through that too.  Now, we don’t go through that. 

  

   Oddly enough, the simpler life one creates, the less stress is involved.  The less stress that is involved. The less stress that is involved, generally the happier the person is.  The happier that person is, the stronger his/her immune system is.  The stronger his/her immune system is, the longer he/she will most probably live, and if it’s not a unusually long lifespan, the quality of life during a shorter lifespan makes up for it.  I love my life. I love what I do.  And though it is not as glamorous as some people may think, that’s alright with me.

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      Doors opened for Lee and I several years back that might have made our lives seem most glamorous.  But the more we worked on the projects, the more we saw that while we were carrying the ball for these well-known celebrity entrepreneurs, the more they look at us as chums, slave labor of sorts, who should be grateful that we got to work with them at any capacity.  I think It was just wonderful that we had that opportunity, to be honest, (and try to be humble) we are that good, but in a free market system, there is this thing called a fair living wage.  They would have no part of that, so we continued to strike out on our own and build our own brands.

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        And though we’ve been at it for quite awhile, this March 19th will be 15 years for me and in November 2013 will be about 4 years for Lee, both are still growing and we still have a long way to go.  Competition is fierce worldwide, and one has to design something not just unique, but very different than what anyone else is offering.  One has to expect copycats. No, they usually don’t copy your total design. But one can look at it and there is no doubt they looked at it first for their “inspiration”.

      So we have focused a great deal on making a great amount of greeting cards for about $3.50-$3.75, tees from $17-$25 etc.  Things people can afford to give as gifts.  Each has one of our licensed graphics, all of which we have “tested” on both Twitter and facebook for feedback. If feedback is good, we move it up to the front of the shop. If not, to the back.  It’s  just like physical retail, without the bricks.

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   Both of us got our start in business in retail shops. Real ones with physical buildings, awnings, and smiling faces.  That is one of the biggest downsides to online marketing. 

    People who shop online, do so for a myriad of reasons, but there are some basic ones that have a common thread.  They are seeking a gift or collectible that they cannot find at the local mall.  They are in luck at our shops and we’ve purposely kept them out of malls or large physical stores. And even though our merchandise appears at Sears.com, it is only at their online shops, not their retail stores.

     They visit Amazon in search of a large selection and discounted price.  They get both when they shop there. 

       They Visit Zazzle to look for both price and often personalization and lightening fast worldwide shipping. Again we give them both there.

       Please don’t get me wrong.  We are merely two merchants who have managed to digitally design thousands of products; about ¼ million between the two of us.   The secret? Again we love what we do, and we work hard and consistently.  Can anybody do it?  I believe anyone can teach themselves to do it or learn to do it watching others. 

      The best way to start is to go to the Zazzle page and sign up for a free account, and visit and talk in their forums.  Be honest. Let them know you are there to learn, and you will be surprised how many will take you under their wing and teach you.  Yes there will be naysayers, but the naysayers are an interesting study in human behavior.  Lee and I passed all the naysayers at warp speed years ago and they are still complaining that “things just aren’t right in online retail”.  And so it goes.

Rick London c2011

      I see posters on facebook and Twitter that remind me to remove negative voices and influences from my life.  I used to do so slowly but that is not necessary.  If I see a pattern now; even for a few hours, it is “block time” and they never come back.

     And my work gets done, miraculously.  And though I could be wrong, my guess is, there’s does not.

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     Finally, online retail is like real life retail.  The custom expects being treated with respect and dignity, they want a decent product, and second-to-none customer service.  

        It’s much easier to offer that than the opposite.  And at the end of the day, they get just that, excellent products, affordable prices, products too unique to be found in malls, and a 100% 30 day guarantee, no questions asked.  

Rick London c2011

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     How much more can one ask?  If they ask for more, we’ll do our best to give it. 

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Rick London is a writer, songwriter, cartoonist and designer who lives a quiet life in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas with his wife Lee Hiller-London.  Rick London founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts in March 1997 (15 years ago).  Since January 2005 it has been Google’s #1 ranked and Bing’s #1 ranked since 2008.  His wife Lee runs the popular nature photography blog HikeOurPlanet.com featuring many of her award-winning photographs.  Together thay spend a great deal of time in Hot Springs National Forest in search of wildlife and flora of which to take photos which they mat and showcase on their walls.  

It’s Just Another Day by Rick London

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     It’s just another day.   When I awakened that McCartney’s tune “Another Day” came in and out of my mind…though for the life of me, I couldn’t remember all the words.  So I looked them up. Don’t you love The Internet?

     Every day she takes a morning bath, she wets her hair

 Wraps a towel around her as she’s heading for the bedroom chair

 It’s just another day….

     I got out of bed, kissed my wife, and brushed my teeth (maybe I should brush my teeth first in the future), and asked myself, “Why did that particular album have such an impact), and, now that I’m 58, how far have I come since that time?

     I was 15 years old (1970) when the album was released.  I was still wearing out my fifth copy of the White Album which had only been released a year prior to that.   Imagine how prolific the Fab 4 had been.  Imagine.  And now McCartney was flying (nearly) solo with Wings (including his late wife Linda). 

    I grabbed some clean sweats (my latest haute’ couture) and headed toward the fridge only to notice I was out of SILK organic soy milk which has become my latest daily breakfast (along with organic coffee du Kroger’s own “Simple Truth” brand) .   These are not product placement posts, friends, I promise. I doubt those folks even know I have a blog much less even who I am.

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     So, I hopped in the car and headed out to Kroger to get some more SILK and ended up finding another $62.75 worth of stuff we needed (after my Kroger card discount), purchased it and headed back home.   By then, Lee had already drunk her daily green tea breakfast and was on her second digital design for her gift line, and I’d not created anything for my own.  My mind was on one thing and one thing only.  Liquid soy protein milk.  Have I lost it?  Nahhhh. I’d never had it to lose.  

      After my “fix”, I headed for the computer to check my  email, only to find I could not send or receive any.   Only an error message that looked like my computer had been breached by the Chinese, taken to the pawn shop, and sold for $50.   I knew what it meant.  My feeble webmail was full and I had to empty it which took about 20 minutes out of my day.   I thought once I was an entrepreneur, people would run to my side to tackle such chores like that but nooooooooooo.  So I emptied the email box while Lee was making our delicious morning fruit/veggie smoothie.  Ever since she started making them over a year ago, she always asks me if I want one. I have never once refused. 

     So I look up at the news as my email slowly empties to see the talking heads tell me my country is going out of business.  My first thought is, “Is the cost of living in Tahiti high” but then remember I love where I live and nix that thought immediately and know, having worked in news, that things are never as bad as reported.  If news were reported as a “neutral static event” not many ads would be sold.

       I sit down to digitally design some products but nothing comes to me, so I write this blog instead. It’s just another day…….

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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist and designer.  He founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts in 1997 which has been Google #1 ranked since 2005 and Bing #1 ranked since 2008.  He is married to popular wildlife/nature photographer Lee Hiller-London who runs the nature blog HikeOurPlanet.com.  You can follow them both on Twitter @RickLondon & @LeeHillerLondon. 

It’s A Beautiful Day But My Back Hurts By Rick London

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 I love days like today.  When we awakened it was cold outside; and even though the heat was on and our walls are thick, somehow it sends a signal to our feet from the window so we know and turn up the heater in the morning.   My wife Lee, from Oregon, likes a cooler temperature inside than me, a southern wuss-hick from Mississippi who calls the EMT unit when the weather reaches as low as 80 to check for signs for pneumonia and or hypothermia.

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     But as Kroger organic coffee (blog product placement) left the pot into my large red cup and into my large (who knows, probably very dark brown by now) inside of my belly from years of Kroger organic coffee, I started to warm up.  Lee drank a few swigs of hers and she was fine. I don’t think she even notices cold weather.  Sometimes when we hike I’ve got on 3-5 layers and she’s got on this stretchy tee looking shirt that she swears keeps her warm.  And when we reach the mountain-top and the wind blows the cold northern air (and a few ducks and turkey vultures) towards us, she just shakes it off.  She looks behind her and I’m semi-hidden in the roots of a large oak tree hoping it will offer a bit of warmth.

    Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit but winter and I are not best friends. 

     I love our office.  Lee and I share one and I have the corner window.  I always wanted a corner window office when I worked in corporate America for a long time and my superiors, all of whom had corner window offices would give me a snicker and a look like “Are you serious”?  Of course I was serious.  Do you know who I am?”  And they’d have a look on their face that said, “Yes, and that’s probably why you’ll never get a corner office working here”.  Don’t you just  love the end of innocence?

     Twenty years later I finally have my corner office but it’s not quite as plush and roomy as the potential office in my Washington, D.C. job could have possibly offered me if I could have just hung in there about 5000 years.  But I’m here and they’ve been out of business for about a decade. Nah nah nah poo poo. 

      Anyway, today I woke up to my vulnerable office chair that has been my constant companion for about three years.  It was a good chair and fit my desk perfectly and positioned me just high enough to where I could see over my monitor out onto Hot Springs Mountain.  I could even see hawks, crows, and numerous other birds fly in and out of the lower foothills.  This always satisfied my connection with nature when I could not get out in it.  Due to numerous other health issues, there were times I could not get out in it (other than my stubborn back).

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     But today was nice because I worked for about an hour, designed a few products and turned off the computer.  Lee was about to work out, and I went back to bed.  She asked, “Are you okay, Baby?” I always appreciated that.  “Yes, thank you for asking.   But my back feels like it fell out of my body so I’m going to take a nap”.  She said, “That’s nice, so you may feel my feet at the end of the bed ‘cause when I do my sit-ups I use the bed for traction”.  “Ok, that’s nice”, I replied.

     So my point was, growing up, being sick or injured was much more difficult than today and required a small jury of my parents to whom I had to prove it was so.  “I’m running a temperature, and my throat hurts”.    My worried looking mom would feel my head and put the thermometer into my mouth. 98.6.  She would give me the bad news.  Well it must be the pollen in the air because there’s no temperature, no infection. Get ready for school.

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!   I’ve got a big day planned in bed.  What in the world big day could I have planned in bed at age 13 and in 8th grade?  Oh, pull out the transistor radio and turn on WXXX and hear Jimmy Rabbit spin the top 30…and if I could pull it off, late that night, KAAY with Clyde Clifford in Little Rock (100,000 Watts mind you).

       But nooooooo. It was off to school.  And since I “was sick; that is suffering from allergies of some sort” mom decided I couldn’t even ride my bike. Mom felt it was better to drive me.   I so wanted to invent a device you could put in your mouth that would trick the thermometer into believing you had a temperature.  I finally figured it out, but it would never work.  Putting a penny or nickel on a stove would indeed make it very hot, but it would also burn a large hole in my tongue…..the size of a penny or nickel.  I nixed that brilliant idea.

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   I gave myself permission today to feel okay that I knew my back really hurt and I would not be making the 400 ft commute again to my desk to create more gifts for all the world to see.  Surely my customers would understand that I had a bad back today.

   And given all my other health issues that was actually pretty good news.  And even better news is the fact that I have no coin-size holes in my tongue….after all these years.

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    Rick London is a freelance writer, cartoonist and writer, songwriter/musician, avid hiker and nature lover.  He founded Londons Times Cartoons LTCartoons.com, Google’s #1 ranked Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts since 2005.  He is married to popular nature/wildlife photographer and online shopping gift designer Lee Hiller.  You can follow Rick on Twitter @RickLondon and Lee @LeeHillerLondon. 

 

 

 

 

My 1st Vegan Thanksgiving And..But…Um…Yum

  I quit eating meat about a year or so ago; that is, anything that could look back at me that also had hair or feathers.  My last holdout was fish and dairy products. My wife Lee went from vegetarian to vegan about a year or more ago. I finally bit the organic bullet and became a vegan 49 days ago. 

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     Now there is a difference between being a vegan and being a vegan on Thanksgiving (actually the day before).  What?  No turkey? No smoked ham? Are you kidding?  But Lee happily toiled around in the kitchen concocting a recipe that smelled out of this world, but the question was, “Could it taste as good as it smelled?”  And furthermore, was it possible to eat a Thanksgiving meal without large chunks of white meat turkey with gravy?  The answer turned out to be an absolute yes.  The meal turned out to be gourmet and there was no way to tell it did not contain turkey.  I’m not sure how she did it but glad she did.

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      And unlike eating turkey, I was not sleepy after the meal, but did get to sleep about 10pm.  But at 5 pm I woke up craving more.  So I took out a pan and heated up another helping and enjoyed a very early Thanksgiving breakfast.

      Now I can’t promise everyone is going to enjoy being a vegan on Thanksgiving as much as I do, but then again, not everyone is married to the very talented Lee Hiller-London.  But she was kind enough to post photos of the meal on facebook which included recipes.   I strongly suggest you try them (even if its not Thanksgiving or any other holiday).  But be forewarned, you will be spoiled and not want to go back to your old diet or lifestyle. 

     I’m 58 and we’re going mountain hiking in about 2 hours.  We do that fairly often (Lee does it often) but 3 days a week is plenty for me.  Not bad for a guy with 3 heart stents.  We hike the steep incline any given time from 2-5 miles.  I think there might be something to this vegan thing.  And besides, it tastes very very good.   Happy Thanksgiving  All.

 

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I am a bit of a goofy vegan mountain man very much enjoying my life with my beautiful talented nature photographer wife Lee HillerLondon who also blogs HikeOurPlanet.com.  I founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts in 1997 which have been Google #1 ranked since Jan. 2005.  I like to design shoes and clothes as well and founded the worlds only famous love quote shoes ShoesThatAmuse.com and RickLondonWisdomShop.com for shoes and gifts with famous people and their famous wisdom quotes.

Why I Can’t Support Factory Farming Or Fur

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Lately some friends (and some not so friendly to me) have asked, “Why so radical with this food and fur thing?  Have you gone mad”?

The answer is yes and no.  Sometimes I hear, “Don’t you even care about children and their causes?”

These are good questions and valid questions.  First, my wife and I love kids. We donate the majority of the money (that we donate),  and promotional time to children’s causes.

So why suddenly this thing about being a vegan and saying no to fur.  First, the animal thing is “not sudden”. Those who know me even from my home town knows my affection for animals.  It’s been with me since I was a child, and I’ve become even more so in adulthood.

My wife Lee Hiller-London and I tweet about animal and childrens causes as much as possible.  Same on facebook.

Occasionally I get asked, “So do you prioritize animals over humans?”  Again, very good question.

Of course not.   Also, to sleep at night, given all the new information I now have, from reading, watching videos, observing in the forest, and talking to Lee, I realize that animals have a lot more intelligence, feelings, and even loyalties to their own families than we once knew.

And sometimes people ask, “But why so ‘angry’ about fur farming?” I could go on and on about the cruelty of it; because now we know it exists.  But there’s a lot more to it than that.

When the “Endangered Species Act” was founded, it was not only because a couple of animal rights nuts thought the snail darter and other fuzzy little animals were cute.  It was because enough research had been done showing that when one species becomes endangered on the planet, so does humanity.  So I was beginning to lean towards getting as much fur, leather, and other animal bi-products out of my life long ago.  It was/is only common sense. A person need not buy into the “animals have feelings too” idea; to understand what science has proven.  Eliminate one species; and we *all* go. That is not Rick talking.

I sometimes get called things like “crazy liberal animal lover” etc.  That’s okay.  In 1973, the one U.S. President who felt, to even my surprise, that the current animal protection was not enough, signed the Endangered Species Act was none other than Richard M. Nixon.    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endangered_Species_Act

Some ask me (and I’m not kidding), “So if I eat meat, I can’t be your friend?”  I hope that is not how you feel.  It’s surely not how I feel. All I ask is to please become informed first.  The meat that is being sold to us today, is not the meat that was sold to us growing up.  It is, most likely, factory farmed.  That means, aside from unusual cruelty to the animals), unhealthy meat with a massive amount of hormones and unnatural fats that give us cancer, heart disease, and a host of other ailments (often at a young age), that are preventable, simply from exploring small farm (free-range), organic if possible, meats.

Fish, even wild-caught, is no longer safe.  It is so full of mercury and other toxins, we no longer even eat sushi, one of my final hold-outs before turning vegan.  Forget the fact that science has discovered that fish have feelings and intelligence way beyond what we were originally taught, it kills us.

So what is left?  Again, that is your personal choice.  For us its vegan.  Lee is 100% raw vegan, and I’m about 75% raw. I plan to make the transition into raw within a few months. There is still a great amount of toxins and such leaving my body from the years of eating basically dead foods that were not sustaining me, just putting me in survival/slow death mode.

I was one of those people.  When I told my cardiologist that I was changing my diet to more fresh vegetables and fruits he gave me the thumbs up.  He loves being a surgeon, but so much surgery is not a cure, it is a control.  I am grateful to him for having those skills.

Why do we speak out against fur?  After all wasn’t America built on the fur trade?  Yes it was.  But it was built on slavery too; but that didn’t make it right.   So much more is known today than even a few decades ago regarding fur and the animals that bear it.  This short video (hard to watch) is by Heather McCartney (daughter of Paul and Linda) regarding how it is raised in China http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfp8qtxXg1U, but sting operations are finding it is not that much different in the U.S. and Europe.  Dog, often skinned alive, is included to unsuspecting consumers, thinking they are buying faux fur.  Saks, Macy’s, Neiman’s and several others just settled a law suit with the HSUS who proved that dog was being sold as “faux fur”.

The “new improved” fur industry is billing itself as raising a kinder-gentler and “ethically euthanized”. Numerous sting operations have already proven that to be a lie.  Often designers and brands are shown the one or two “humane” farms (so that they don’t get totally sick) and that is all they see. The sad thing is; there’s only a few of those.  The business simply has proven itself unable to be accountable, and the largest majority are, for the most part, very very similar to the one in the video. The killing methods may (or may not) be slightly different.  But the horrid living conditions are the same.

This new fur industry is billing itself as “green” and “earth friendly”; and people are buying into it. Don’t believe it.  It’s anything but that.  Again, don’t take my word.  Do your own research (they will be glad to show you their green ethical farm, but what about all the rest.  All the fur from a brand does not come from one or two farms. It comes from every country on the planet.  And 99.% of those farms are run to the detriment not only of the animals, but to the planet, and; to you and me.  Because we can’t see it up close, it doesn’t seem to affect us.  But it does.  Even if you don’t buy into the global warming theory because Al Gore supports it, perhaps you can make an exception to fur because Richard M. Nixon signed the ESB into law; and I’m guessing it was not because of his love of fuzzy little wildlife (though I could be wrong). It was because science had proven by 1973 that one lost species most likely means humans go next.  And that has never been disputed.

Most of this information has been around for a long time.  My patient wife Lee has been transitioning into less meat, chicken, fish, and finally 100% vegan over the past few years.  I was late to the table but turned vegetarian about 7 months ago, and finally vegan ten days ago.  I’ve not had one cup of coffee since that time, but haven’t felt I needed it.  My eyesight is starting to improve, as is my ability to concentrate.   In other words, my quality of life is improving, finally.  I watched Lee’s own health and good looks improve that much more. I wanted that too.  Now I’m getting it.  I don’t demand others eat like we do, or not wear fur. That is a personal decision; But we would never feel comfortable in our own skin promoting a business such as a factory farm or fur business.  After all, they don’t even get to feel uncomfortable in there skin, and then someone else pays for it and wears it.  We feel a responsibility to help our friends get all the right information, so they do not make the same errors the generation before us did, through no fault of their own (they simply didn’t have all the facts).  Thanks and happy trails to everyone.

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Rick London is founder and co-creator of Google’s #1 offbeat cartoons & funny gifts (Londons Times).   His cartoon features over 1/4 million tees, mugs, shoes etc.  Every single product is vegan-friendly.  His wife is nature photographer Lee Hiller-London who is creator of the popular nature blog  Hike Our Planet and has her own line of about 36,000 gift items.